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Contributions of missionaries towards evangelization of pondicherry (original)

Contributions of missionaries towards evangelization of pondicherry (original)






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    Contributions of missionaries towards evangelization of pondicherry (original) Contributions of missionaries towards evangelization of pondicherry (original) Document Transcript

    • Contributions of Missionaries towards evangelization of Pondicherry P.CHARLES CHRISTOPHER RAJ M.A., M.Phil. M.I.M., M.L.I.S.C., M.C.A., B.Ed.,P.G.D.T.A., ASSISTANT PROFESSOR of HISTORY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORICAL STUDIES KASTHURBA COLLEGE FOR WOMEN VILLIANUR, PUDUCHERRY 605 110 MOBILE: 9443723327 Email Id:ccraj18@gmail.comIntroduction Pondicherry Mission has a hoary history of 356 years. But this history, like anyother history is not built up with dead wood, but with the flesh and blood of themissionaries, who toiled and worked, did not cow down under pain and suffering, metwith opposition and refusal, did not back down from sacrifice, fasting and prayer. Christian missionaries in India reached areas hitherto inaccessible to most of thecivilized people and there, braving all sorts of hardships and sufferings had brought thebenefits of civilization to the most backward and illiterate people. This paper tries to traceout the evangelical activities by the missionaries in Pondicherry.Pondicherry region: Pondicherry is bounded by the Bay of Bengal on the east and by South Arcotdistrict on the other sides, it is irregular boundary winding in and out of the district in acomplicated manner. The Union Territory of Pondicherry comprises four regions viz.,Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. Pondicherry and Karaikal located on the eastcoast of Tamil Nadu have an area of 293 sq.kms and 160 sq.kms respectively. Mahe,situated on the west coast, four miles of Tellicherry, has an area of 9 sq.kms. Yanam 14
    • lies on the eastern coast in the East Godavari district of Andhra State, and has an area of30 sq.kms. The total area of the Union Territory of Pondicherry is 492 sq.kms1.First Missionaries to India : Tradition says that Christianity on the Malabar coast of Indiaoriginated with St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. St. Thomas issupposed to have landed at Cranganore in about 52, preached the Gospel to people andorganised Christian communities in several places and established seven churches. St.Thomas being a first missionary he worked for nearly 20 years and was murdered atMylapore2. As San Thome, Mylapore which was named after the arrival of the missionary ofSt.Thomas, became an important commercial centre for the Portuguese on theCoromondel Coast, it was but natural that it became the seat of missionary activities.With the Portuguese merchants and seamen, there were priests and religious in the regionwith a Bishop in 1606. In fact Pope Paul V erected Mylapore as a diocese on 9th June1606 under the Archdiocese of Goa. The first Bishop was Dom Sebastio de SanctuaryPedro of the Order of St. Augustine3 . St. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit priest toarrive in India. He landed in Goa, alone on 6 th May 1542 just two years after thecanonical erection of the Society of Jesus. In North Tamilnadu, his activities were verymuch limited. He just made a passing visit to San Thome and Nagapattinam. Memories,traditions and miracles are attributed to his presence in these places. At Pondicherry hewas in Upallam which keeps a vague remembrance of his stay and his abode called as‘Saveriar Cherry’. It was during a storm at sea while travelling from Nagapattinam to 14
    • SanThome he would have landed at Upallam, a small fishing village at Pondicherry4.With the advent of these saints as missionaries Pondicherry mission grew up like abanyan tree and they should be applaud at all times.Beginning of the Missionary activities in Pondicherry : The French came to India not only to gain commercial profits and, ifpossible, political supremacy, but also to propagate their religion—Christianity. Hence,like all other Europeans who came to India after the fifteenth century, the French took upthe propagation of Christianity in all earnestness. Indeed, when Colbert formed theFrench East India Company in 1664, it was made obligatory on the part of the Companyto propagate the Christian religion. By Article XXX of the Royal Edict issued onAugust 27,1664 the company was enjoined to make suitable arrangements for theestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church in all its territories. Even before theestablishment of the French settlements in India, the Capuchin Fathers visisted Surat in1639. And they established themselves in Madras, in 1642. At the invitation ofFrancois Martin, who succeeded Belanger De Lespinay, the Capuchin fathers fromMadras had assumed the religious service in Pondicherry5.Capuchin missionaries at Pondicherry : Around the year 1673, the first missionaries arrived in Pondicherry. They werethe Capuchin Friars. Perhaps the missionaries were in two minds and were studying theattitudes of the natives. For more than 12 years there was no Church in Pondicherry andall the religious ceremonies were performed in the house of the Capuchin Friars. And 14
    • only in 1686 the Dubash to the French Company by name Lazaro de Motto built the firstChurch and dedicated it to St.Lazarus. It was known as L’Eglise des Malabares. A fewyears later, the Capuchins built themselves a convent and a chapel which was calledL’Eglise des Capuchins or L’Eglise du Fort6. In 1707 they built a new church attachedto the official Church St.Louis within the Fort where tamil mass was performed. 30 yearslater second church known as Our Lady of Angels Church was constructed where Frenchmass was performed7. This church in French was called Notre Dame Des Anges, wasplanned by Louis Guerre and built in typical Roman Style by Lalande de Calan andVernian S’Maur the Governors of French Settlements in India. This church was openedin March 1855. A large size oil portrait of Our Lady of Assumption presented byEmperor Napoleon III, on August 15, 1863, is still preserved here8. Hence, Capuchinstook the first place in evangelization of people at French Settlements. Gradually, thiswork was taken up by the Jesuits.Jesuits at Pondicherry : The French Jesuits who were expelled from Thailand in 1681 due to politicalrevolution took shelter at Pondicherry. The Jesuit priests found a vast field open to theirevangelical work. In 1691, Rev. Fr .John de Britto put them in charge of the Malabares,a term then popularly and erroneously used for the Indians. And he entrusted theCapuchins with the spiritual welfare of the Europeans and the Creoles. But the Jesuitshad no Church to call their own they built a church dedicated to Virgin Mary and calledit as Notre Dame de la Conception9. 14
    • However, the church was commonly called ‘Saint Paul’s Church. In Tamil, ‘SanPauol Koil’ the pronunciation was distorted into ‘Samba Koil’ (this expression is usedeven today). The reason for it is that the Jesuits were then known as Saint Paul’s Fathersor Paulists, owing to their famous College of Santa Fe at Goa, which was inaugurated onthe feast day of the Conversion of St. Paul. That College was popularly known as ‘SaintPaul’s College’10. The Jesuits started a small Boarding High School where they began to teachcompetently various subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Navigation, Philosophy andTheology. In the Parish, Fr. Dolu and mostly Fr. Turpin did great work at the beginningof the 18th century. Yet their ignorance of the Hindu customs prevented the developmentof these institutions. Due to their excessive zeal for spreading Christianity, the Hindusbecame apathetic towards them. New conversions were made almost everywhere11. The glorious days began to decline as the French Governor Dupleix was asked toreturn to France. Under his successors, the Carnatic war went on against the British. In1761, the British captured Pondicherry. There came the natural end for the work of theJesuits. When the French power in India was ruined in Pondicherry, the Jesuits werepersecuted in Europe also simultaneously. The Carnatic Mission felt the repercussion.The suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773 by Rome was a terrible blow for thealready struggling and impoverished Carnatic Mission and for the churches in the wholeof South India. During the period between 1736 and 1761, the country was stained withblood because of the war between the British and the French. Portugal suspended theSociety of Jesus and recalled the missionary Jesuits of the Portuguese origin. Many 14
    • priests were arrested and deported to Portugal. Moreover in 1784, the Sultan of Mysore,Tipu Sahib began to persecute the Christians. Many were killed and Catholics wereforcibly converted to Islam. In 1776, the situation was so bad that a missionary wrote “A good number of our Churches were deserted, the civil wars, the fall of Pondicherry,the lack of missionaries and poor income have been the causes of complete collapse ofthe churches. We are in a state of distress”. Though the Church has survived the mostawesome changes in the world’s history. It will still survive many more of them. Itsdiscipline is an example for an estimate of all men and women Catholics were about2,75,000, in South India and 10,000 Catholics were there in Pondicherry. 12 It was under these bad conditions the Society of Paris Foreign Missions usuallycalled M.E.P (MISSIONS ETRANGERES OF PARIS) was called upon in 1776 totake care of the Coromandel Coast Mission.M.E.P Fathers at Pondicherry: A Roman decree was given on 30th September 1776 and the official lettersof the King of France, Louis XVI were dated 30th December 1776. As these documentsreached Pondicherry only in the middle of 1777, the official ‘registration’ by the uppercouncil of the Government of Pondicherry of the taking over of the mission by Mgr.Briggot and the Society of Paris Foreign Missions took place on 18th September, 1777 13.French Mission House at Pondicherry: The M.E.P fathers intention was to develop the Apostolic Mission that wasalready done by the Jesuits. For this purpose they constructed a mission house in the 14
    • year 1771 by name ‘College Generale’. Similar kind of this was at Siam established inthe year 1666 but was closed in 1767 due to an invasion from Burma. So Pondicherry‘College Generale’ became the first of its kind and it acted as a base for the mission. The Directors of the M.E.P bought a splendid piece of land at Virampatinam, nearPondicherry and constructed a college. In 1775 Pope Pius VI approved the CollegeGenerale of Virampatinam and put it under the special care of the Holy See14. The first Rector was Fr. Pigneau de Behaine. He remained as Rector till 1774even though he was nominated coadjutor of Cochin China already in 1771. Due toinsufficient students in the Seminary it was closed in the year 1781. With the Britishattack in the year 1793 the Mission House was used as hospital for many years15. One can see even today the imposing ruins of the former seminary, in a delightfulspot on which the Romans had set up an “emporium” in older times. The enormousRoman bricks found in the remains have been used for the building of the Seminary, afew of which are still seen in the portico. The life in the Seminary was a studious as itwas practical: “Everyday, the brothers spent four hours in study and one hour ingardening, baking, etc.” And it was only in 1807 that the Seminary of its kind wasreopened at Penang. But there was a small seminary at Oulgaret established by Fr.Magny which trained the first batch of Tamil Seminarians for the priesthood. The firstPondicherry priest was Fr. Thomas ordained in the ember days of Advent in 1788. Thesecond was Fr. Philip ordained on the octave of Epiphany 1789. Thereby the 14
    • missionaries were able to breed their kind gradually at Pondicherry and other Frenchsettlements16.Education of Girls : The training of the local clergy is the priority of M.E.P society. It demanded theeducation of youth in general, particulars of girls who will become mothers and as such,they have an important role and influence on priestly vocation of local boys. In the year1843, the Administrator of Karaikal, Mgr. Bonnand, M.E.P, the Apostolic Vicar ofCormandal Coast, with the help of Cluny sisters set up a Needle work centre. Threeschools were opened in 1844 and three workrooms for Indians and Harijans, oneorphanage for girls were opened17.Commitment to local Church and Adaptability : One of the outstanding features of M.E.P was their commitment to local church.The training of indigenous clergy has been the priority of M.E.P missionaries. Theytook keen interest in all round development of the rural poor, especially in their faithformation. The interest shown by M.E.P in fostering the indigenous culture andtraditions are praise worthy. They encouraged in promoting local vocation to priesthoodand religious life. Their principles were ‘Be good to the natives, protect them by everymeans possible. Inspire them with the love of God and love of Mary18.Catechical and Biblical Formation : The M.E.P fathers took great interest in the Catechetical and Biblical formationof the laity and religious. The services were rendered by Fr. Becker as Diocesanpromoter of Catechetic, Catholic centre at Tindivanam and the services of Fr. Carof 14
    • Andre in Tindivanam and Pondicherry. Fr. Pennel Gerard, Fr. Roland, Fr. Rossinngol,Fr. Mahe Auguste, Fr. Cornu, Fr. Dussaigne, Fr.Olivier, Fr.Legrand in this field are worthmentioning. Their simple life style, adaptability, contribution to Christian literature areexemplary. They had been always inspiration to the people of Pondicherry19. Fr. Carof Andre towards the youth and his tireless zeal in bringing back the lostsheep to the fold, and his profound love towards the Christian youth, his service in theanimation centre in guiding the youth will ever be cherished. His constant cry was‘Give them Jesus, the world needs Christ’20.Other Religious Congregation founded by M.E.P : Amantes de la Croix – Lovers of the Cross founded by Mgr. Lambert de la Matte,one of the first Vicars Apostolic in Thailand in 1667. Franciscan Sisters of theImmaculate Heart of Mary founded in Pondicherry by Fr. Louis Savinien Dupuis M.E.Pin 1840 where Fr. Dupuis was the most honoured author and publisher of several booksin tamil, nearly 35 religious books, 18 biographies, 6 story books, 5 dictionaries,6 tamilgrammar. Under his incharge Mission Press was established and a weekly Christianpamphlet called ‘Sarvaviyabi’ was brought out. Bon Secours, St. Louis de Gonzague, apious association founded in Pondicherry by Fr. Ansaldo S.J., in 1775 was raised into aReligious Congregation by Mgr. Bonnand in 1858. Fr. Lehodey M.E.P was put in-chargeof the new Congregations21. 14
    • Statistics showing the gradual growth of Pondicherry Mission** : Status of the Pondicherry 2011 Sl.no. 1930 1955 2000 Mission 1 Catholics 1,04,000 1,58,925 2,88,000 3,79,984 2 Parishes 43 53 87 101 3 Churches 48 97 286 373 4 Indian Priests 22 72 153 256 5 M.E.P Priests 60 37 4 nil From the statistics it is possible to estimate that M.E.P served the Diocese towhich they were sent and spent all their resources, in building churches, parishes, whenthey left the place they left all to the native priests in the diocese. Native priests weretrained by them to take up the work started by them. Many of the M.E.P fathers choseto work and die in the Diocese where they were called upon to work. A casual look atthe cemetery of priests attached to Pondicherry Cathedral will testify it. They lived asimple and austere life without claiming any special privileges. They took pains to learnthe language of the people. In the past there were no such facilities as we have now. Inspite of the draw backs they travelled by cycles, horses, bullock carts to reach the parishand sub-stations. In short they are the ideal missionaries. It seems that M.E.P sendsfinancial help to our Archdiocese even now. ‘Missionary Zeal’ of the M.E.P should be asource of inspiration to all the Indian catholics22.The Ursulines at Pondicherry : 14
    • In 1738, the French ‘Compagnie des Indes’ invited to Pondicherry someUrsuline Nuns of Vannes. Three professed and one lay person landed on the 8 thSeptember 1738. The Superior Council of the Colony headed by Mon.Dumas drew up acontract in their favour and allotted a piece ofland for them to construct a convent anda school and the Nuns were looked as Company employees. Capuchin Fr. Norbert wasappointed as ecclesiastical Superior of the Community. There arose a problem betweenthe Company and the Religious Community and the nuns wanted to go back to thenative. But a change was brought out by Dupleix the then Governor of Pondicherry,before taking the decision, the Bishop of Vannes had ordered the recall of the nuns. Theytook the ship ‘Le Duc de Bourbon’ in October 1744. Thus their stay at Pondicherry hadno benefit and from then on Pondicherry had not seen any European sisters again until1827 23.Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny at Pondicherry : This congregation was founded by Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey – ‘the firstWoman missionary and the Liberator of Slaves’ has its origin in Cluny, France in 1807.This is a worldwide missionary congregation in which the sisters devoted themselveswith a passion for God, in the liberative mission of the Church responding to the signsof the time. They too became the partners in evangelization of Pondicherry. With therequest of the French Governor Viscount Desbassyns de Richemont to send sisters forevangelical work was welcomed by Mother Rosali Javouhey and she sent three sistersconsisting of Sr.Xavier Tronchain, Sr.Seraphine Ducardeau and Sr.Dorothy Chevrier on28th December 1826 and they landed in Pondicherry on 10th February 1827.Immediately they opened in the French town, a day school, then a boarding house and a 14
    • free school. By a decree dated 24th August , 1829 ‘ a private school for the EurasianGirls’ was opened. From then on to present year the sisters are able to carry out theirevangelical work in most confident way in the Pondicherry region and they have starteda College for Women 24.Conclusion Progress in the extension of the Kingdom of Our Lord has a price to be paid.During the years, many good and active missionaries paid their efforts with their life andwere called back to the Presence of their Master. The people of Pondicherry have great admiration for missionaries who didyeomen’s service for the all round progress of this city of peace. The missionariesspread out into the villages and did dedicated service. Their service in all walks of lifehelped effect the social change, the results of which are witness today25. Henceforth, Pondicherry which was under the Colonial rule of the French hadexperienced great difference from colonizers of other nationalities like the Portuguese,the British, the Dutch and the Danes for their missionaries identified themselves with thelocal population and nurtured the local customs, manners and culture. They were onewith the local people in their aspirations. They learned the language of the people andmade contributions to their development. They were not supercilious in their demeanourand conduct. They were ever ready to help the poor.Footnotes and References1. Ramasamy, History of Pondicherry,Pondicherry 1986, p.1-2. 14
    • 2. T.K. Joseph, Six St. Thomas Of South India,Delhi, 1955 p. 27.3. Sampathkumar P.A and Andre Carof M.E.P,History of Pondicherry Mission: An Outline,,Pondicherry1999,p.4.4.Clement Iswar, Diocese of Pondicherry – Cuddalore (A.D1545-2000),Pondicherry,2003,p.8-9.5. Revue Historique de Pondicherry, Vol.II,1973,p.46.6. Raja & Rita Nath Kesari,Glimpses of Pondicherry,Pondicherry,2005,p.10-11.7. Sampathkumar P.A and Andre Carof M.E.P,op.cit.,p.118. Ramasamy, op.cit.,p.200.9. Raja & Rita Nath Kesari, op.cit.,p.10.10. Sampathkumar P.A and Andre Carof M.E.P,op.cit.,p.13.11. Ibid, p.14.12. Ibid, p.18-24.13. Ibid , p.30-33.14. Ibid, p.28.15.Jacob, History of Pondicherry Mission,Pondicherry,1976,p.16.16.Ibid,p.17.17. Sampathkumar P.A and Andre Carof M.E.P,op.cit.,p.140-145.18. Sampathkumar P.A and Maria Joseph.S ,(ed), Call to Asia, Missions Etrangeres de Paris(MEP) 350 years service,Pondicherry,2009.19. Ibid.20. Ibid.21. Clement Iswar,op.cit.,p.126-129. 14
    • **--Consolidated the statistics from the books Clement Iswar, Diocese of Pondicherry –Cuddalore (A.D 1545-2000),Pondicherry,2003 and Jacob, History of PondicherryMission,Pondicherry,1976,p.16.also Supplement to the ORDO for the EcceleisasticalProvince of Pondicherry & Cuddalore,2010-11 August,Pondicherry.22. Sampathkumar P.A and Maria Joseph.S ,(ed), Souvenir on Call to Asia, Missions Etrangeres de Paris(MEP) 350 years service,Pondicherry,2009.23. Sampathkumar P.A and Andre Carof M.E.P,History of Pondicherry Mission: An Outline,, Pondicherry1999, p.11-12.24. Sampathkumar P.A and Maria Joseph.S ,(ed), Souvenir on Call to Asia, Missions Etrangeres de Paris(MEP) 350 years service,Pondicherry,2009.25. Mathew.K.S (ed), French in India and Indian Nationalism (1700- 1963),Delhi, 1999, p.311. 14